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Hospital nurses report benefits from new electronic record system at Royal Free

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Nursing staff at a hospital trust in North London are reporting benefits from the introduction a new electronic patient record (EPR) system, which they said was both freeing up their time and improving patient care.

Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust said its nurses and other clinicians could now enter details straight on to the EPR, instead of spending time hunting for and trawling through patient records.

“There are many ways in which EPR helps our staff deliver better care to patients”

Katie Trott

Information from devices such as blood pressure monitors was uploaded to the system automatically and staff were alerted if a patient’s observations were outside the normal range.

The EPR allows clinicians to access up-to-date information about patients, enabling them to deliver better care, improving efficiency and reducing the chance of an error being made, said the trust.

The Cerner UK system also uses patient data to create documents for clinical records and correspondence to GPs and patients.

The system went live at Barnet Hospital, Chase Farm Hospital, Edgware Community Hospital, Finchley Memorial Hospital and the maternity department at the Royal Free Hospital in November.

It was implemented in just 11 months to enable the opening of the new digital Chase Farm Hospital, noted the trust.

Christine Gracey, a pain management clinical nurse specialist at Barnet Hospital and Chase Farm Hospital, said: “I love that there are no longer flaky pastry mountains of notes.

“We’ve made it to the 21st century,” she said. “I’m pretty happy about how it’s enhanced my day to day work as it’s freeing up precious time.”

With all information in one record, patients no longer face delays or inconvenience because diagnostic results or medication histories are inaccessible, highlighted the trust.

“We’ve made it to the 21st century. I’m pretty happy”

Christine Gracey

Instead of paper records at the patient’s bedside, it said computers or laptops were used to view and input information directly.

This record is available at hospital sites at any time as well as remotely, using secure access, preventing delays to patient care and speeding review, diagnosis and treatment.

Sarah Fowkes, a midwife in the antenatal clinic at the Royal Free Hospital, said: “Previously women had their hand-written and hand-held bundle of notes and this has gone.

“It’s a lot easier to read a patient’s plan – which can include everything from observations to telephone conversations – and you no longer have the issue of trying to read other people’s hand-writing,” she said.

“The next person coming to the plan can see what’s been said so they don’t have to ask the patient for the same information,” she said. “This has proved to be a time-saver for me.”

She added: “Initially there was some dragging of feet, simply because people were fearful of change, but once midwives understood it was simply a different way of documenting, rather than a different way of providing care, that was a real breakthrough and everyone is much more confident navigating it.”

Patients are now able to view their health records, manage hospital appointments and receive test results and messages from their hospital care team by registering for a secure online patient portal.

“Initially there was some dragging of feet, simply because people were fearful of change”

Sarah Fowkes

In addition, the trusts said that patients could “be confident” they were receiving the safest and most effective care in line with the latest clinically-evidenced pathways.

When patients come to the Royal Free’s hospitals with certain symptoms or conditions, new digital clinical pathways now prompt their healthcare team to the right course of treatment.

In the first 16 weeks after launch, over 4,000 patients were assigned to a clinical pathway, according to the trust.

Katie Trott, chief nursing information officer at the Royal Free, said: “There are many ways in which EPR helps our staff deliver better care to patients.

“It improves patient safety by providing alerts for medication protocols and increases efficiency by freeing up clinicians’ time and reducing unnecessary variation in care,” she said.

“The patient portal allows patients to enter their pre-op assessment information from home, instead of having to attend hospital as they did previously – so both patients and staff are seeing the value of the new system,” she added.

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